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I: Technics 1

I: Technics1

Amongst all the problems of civilisation with which we are dealing in these lectures the problem of “technics” is the youngest. All the others have worried Western mankind and Christianity for centuries; not so technics. In earlier times people had hardly become conscious of it much less did they think of it as a problem. To-day however it is in the front line because—to a degree previously unheard of—technics—or shall I say technology?—determines the life of man endangers the human character of civilisation and even threatens the very existence of mankind. Whilst half a century ago the startling progress of technology was the basis of an optimistic philosophy of life and progress since the two world wars and particularly since the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima the conception of technics has become more and more connected with gloomy even desperate perspectives for the future. The question whether civilisation and mankind will survive has become the problem of the hour so that we cannot but start with it.

This fact—that technology has recently become the most urgent of all problems—contrasts strangely with the other fact that technics is as old as humanity. Human history begins with the invention of the first stone tool that is with technics. It is in the shape of homo faber that man first shows himself as a being transcending nature. From this beginning technics that is the creation and use of artificial tools serving the life of man has increasingly distinguished man's life from that of the animal and imprinted upon it a specifically human character. The history of technics from its beginning to say the time of James Watt is characterised by an almost unbroken more or less equable and therefore quite unobtrusive progress. Step by step man makes headway in solving the task which he recognises as his own to subdue nature by his technical inventions.